Scots business urges May to delay Brexit talks

UPDATE 2 — Brexit talks should be delayed until political stability is established in the United Kingdom, according to the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Scotland.

The plea followed the outcome of the UK general election, which produced a hung parliament and a vow by prime minister Theresa May to try and put together a UK government with the support of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party that can provide “certainty” for the future.

Andy Willox, FSB’s Scottish policy convenor, said: “Scottish business wants reassurance that political turbulence doesn’t result in prolonged economic disruption.

“Indeed, we would argue that Brexit talks should be postponed until political stability is established.

“We would make the case for Scotland’s 59 MPs – across all the parties – to reinforce their links with local firms.

“Our new representatives should bring local business intelligence to crucial decisions, especially those related to Brexit.”

Scotland’s leading professional investors have also been giving their reaction to the constitutional confusion that has followed the UK vote.

Aberdeen Asset Management CEO Martin Gilbert said: “Markets hate surprises and uncertainty but it’s becoming par for the course these days.

“The hope would be the result leads to a softer stance on Brexit but it could also strengthen Europe’s hand.

“We will need to wait for Westminster to get its house in order and in all likelihood the substantial negotiations won’t start until after the German elections in September anyway.

“It is certainly not the time for fund managers to be making any knee-jerk investment or business decisions.”

SVM Asset Management managing director Colin McLean said: “A barely workable Conservative majority will certainly weaken Britain’s hand in Brexit negotiations and may delay the start of talks this month.

“But recently investors seemed to think that a reduced Conservative majority might increase prospects for flexibility in negotiations and a soft Brexit.

“If anything can be taken from a confused election result, it is that the electorate does not want a hard Brexit.”

Meanwhile, David Watt, executive director of the Institute of Directors Scotland, said: “Scottish businesses are robust and have weathered surprising election results before, and they will do it again.

“However, the lack of a government with a majority undeniably creates uncertainty for businesses, particularly as we head towards Brexit talks, and the many significant domestic challenges Scotland and the rest of the UK face.

“The Conservatives might govern as a minority but they have to accept that they have not earned a mandate to implement their manifesto in full.

“It is now beholden on politicians to get past the campaign rhetoric and find a way to work together to negotiate a strong deal with European leaders.

“Governments north and south of the border need to focus on what they can do to support business and the economy, and not interfere where they can’t.

“Long-term issues need to be addressed as swiftly as possible, including Scotland’s infrastructure such as broadband access and to ensure Scotland’s education system benefits from developing technologies.

“It is also vital to take a serious look at business rates and to consider in detail the impact they can have on our international competitiveness.

“The new government will have to listen to the voice of business, party politics can dominate debates and decision-making when parliaments don’t have a majority, but we have no time to waste and the biggest party leaders must work together to address the most pressing issues at hand.

“It does seem that a second independence referendum in Scotland is a long way away, which removes any further instability for business, at least for the time being.

“We all need to focus on economic growth, including improving the quality of board rooms and directors.”